Tuesday, May 15, 2007

You can make the worst of anything

Here's a headline for you:

New detainees strain Iraq’s jails
Sharp rise follows start of security plan; suspects housed with convicts

And the lede:

BAGHDAD - The capture of thousands of new suspects under the three-month-old Baghdad security plan has overwhelmed the Iraqi government's detention system, forcing hundreds of people into overcrowded facilities, according to Iraqi and Western officials.

I wonder what the headline would have been if the "surge" had been unsuccessful in rounding up "thousands of new suspects"?

This article carefully skirts the issue of the evidence against these "suspects." Nowhere is the claim that neighbors with grudges are gleefully informing on one another and that this alone is enough to get you crammed into Baghdad's overcrowded jails - so, since there's no doubt in my mind (particularly given the tenor of the many, many other articles to which the WP's special correspondents on this story have contributed) that that detail wouldn't have been left out if true, it strikes me that perhaps the standard of evidence to throw someone into the slammer where they'll await arraignment is perhaps along the lines of "seen planting a roadside bomb."

This isn't to say jail overcrowding is not a problem, nor that it's good that uncharged suspects are held with convicts. My point is that the narrative doesn't change no matter what the news is: Baghdad is burning. Pre-"surge," it was an insurgency out of control; inter-"surge," it's an imperfect and inadequate criminal justice system, of all things. (Still no resurgence of the rape rooms, though.)

I commend to your attention the "parliament of clocks" fable from Chicagoboyz. It's highly instructive, with regard to the media narrative.

1 comment:

ouestmaman said...

Hello Jamie!

Thank you for a wonderful blog,always a most interesting and enlightening site to read.
This little note is just on a practical matter; "sons". A friend recently mentioned that as each of her children reached 21 years of age she would present a copy of the Dr.Seuss book "Oh,The Places You'll Go!" to them. (It's never too late.) Perhaps you know of it, it was a new to me.

"From bang-ups and hang-ups to lurches and slumps, Dr. Seuss takes a hilarious look at the mishaps and misadventures that LIFE has in store for us."